It’s been a really long, tough week for me. It wasn’t any more or less stressful or painful, perhaps, than anyone else’s week, but it has been my kind of hard. I’m finding myself ragged and worn. The kind of exhausted that isn’t really settled by sleep or cozy blankets… the kind of dry that a bath won’t relieve and lotion can’t soothe. I have been playing worship music on repeat, God’s been speaking truth into my life through His Word and through his people constantly and faithfully… but still, there is just this deep, damp, debilitating darkness in every direction. It hasn’t enveloped me, but I feel it hovering. I have felt the scraping fingertips of anxiety, and it is scary, and, although I am not conquered, my body is still reeling from it.
I’m thinking about the beginning of another week, about waking up tomorrow and doing another day… and I am just so tired. One friend explained it by saying, “Your Spirit is tired. When your spirit is tired, there is no amount of sleep that is going to give you the rest you crave.” There is certainly “rest” in relinquishing my stubborn desires and leaning into His strength to carry me. There is peace beyond understanding when I seek to accept His Heaven-defined goodness. Joy is not out of reach because it is in His will to give it to us completely. However, because sin-caused brokenness still exists in this world, because we are not restored to perfection on this earth, because we are inconsistent, our abilities to truly and completely trust in Him for that rest and peace and joy will continue to be inconsistent while we are on this side of Heaven. These are not things for which we ask once and then are fulfilled, instead we have to keep returning to God to reveal them and fill our souls.
Sometimes, though, he doesn’t reveal rest immediately. Sometimes there’s this undeniable, eery silence. In my life, that doesn’t sound like all the things standing still, or all the projects pausing, or all the toddlers sleeping. Right now it feels like the noise of a creaking gate when the anxious wind fades to an alarming halt before the tornado siren sounds. Right now it feels like a vibrant conversation that suddenly turned into a desperate monologue. And I’m truly grasping in this moment, yearning to feel the presence of God without distraction or worry. And I feel that I’m barely scratching the surface of a thought that’s been bouncing off the walls in my head…
I wonder if God allows us to go through these times—and I think its likely that He does—to know what it is to be separated from Him, to learn how to long for His presence. I am redeemed, and I have hope. Part of that hope is found in recognizing that this world is a waking nightmare BUT that I won’t be stuck here forever. He will not leave me here. For a while, we will all experience the curse of this dreadful horror, we will see and feel in our bodies the ache of sickness and sadness and death. Yet in the midst of it, He can teach us to thirst for Him in a way we might never have experienced unless we were forced to go through the broken valleys. I ask, in much deeper places with greater groans than I imagined I’d ever make, to be with Him. In an image? Sometimes the cold chills us to our bones while the bright orange sparks tease our yearning for the fire.
I know I’m not the only one going through a valley right now. Life is heavy, and there are moments of lightness… but the longer I live and the more people I ask, the less I believe the statement, “it gets better.” I’m not trying to be a downer, or aiming to pull you into a pit if that’s not where you are. I’m not calling for a halt on hope. But I really don’t think our lives will get better, or easier or fully lighter, not on earth. I do think, when I turn around to look at what has happened even in the last year, that I learn more about God when I feel distance between us. The greater I trust Him in the lows, the more he teaches me about soaring in the highs and about finding the bright spots. In this moment, I don’t have answers beyond the knowing that someday I won’t be kept low with all of these questions. One day, there will be great rejoicing, when my soul finds its place in fullness of rest and peace and joy. He will answer my knock with a physical hug, a smile and a “welcome home.”